CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is OneLetterWords.com.
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The Right Word

March 16, 2015 (permalink)

"His saul abune the moon," from Gryll Grange by Thomas Love Peacock, 1896.



March 14, 2015 (permalink)

"I should call it a deliberate —."  From Kate Carnegie by Ian Maclaren, 1896.



March 6, 2015 (permalink)

This David Lynchian Ricky Board is in honor of Gary Barwin, author of Yiddish for Pirates (Random House Canada, 2016), though it is technically a self-portrait by proxy.  We'll include Lynch's instructions for making a Ricky Board below (and yes, we realize we violated Lynch's size constraint).



—How To Make A Ricky Board—

by David Lynch

This board can be any size you want.

The proportions are dictated by four rows of five rickies.

Each ricky is, as nearly as possible, exactly the same as every other ricky.

The ricky can be an object or a flat image.

The thing about the rickies is you will see them change before your eyes because you will give each ricky a different name.

The names will be printed or written under each ricky. Twenty different names in all.

You will be amazed at the different personalities that emerge depending on the names you give.

Here is a poem:

Four rows of five

Your rickies come alive

Twenty is plenty

It isn’t tricky

Just name each ricky

Even though they’re all the same

The change comes from the name


March 4, 2015 (permalink)

We encountered a window into the world as it was before National Grammar Day.  The caption reads, "Speak out, and don't bother about grammar."  The title of the book speaks for itself: A Deplorable Affair by William Edward Norris, 1893.




March 1, 2015 (permalink)

The Dictionary of American Slang trances "disco" back to the 1960s, but here's the "entrance to the music hall, disco" from 1887's The Sea: Its Stirring Story of Adventure, Peril & Heroism by Frederick Whymper.





"Dash it, don't you mean a hurdy-gurdy?"  From The Works of William Makepeace Thackeray, 1869



February 13, 2015 (permalink)

Here's some "peachafication" (though we'd have spelled it with an I: peachification) from the hilarious series Schitt's Creek starring Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara.



February 4, 2015 (permalink)

An illustration from Cranford by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell (1898).  The caption reads: "It was too big for words."



January 12, 2015 (permalink)

A thicket is a definite article.  From Fair Diana by Wanderer, 1884.



January 8, 2015 (permalink)

"Colon and Semi-colon," from Buffalo Land by W. E. Webb, 1873.



January 6, 2015 (permalink)

Thanks to Mike Kloran (author of Zombies: The Stinking Dead) for his review of our dictionary of One-Letter Words: "It’s a fun little piece that looks at all the many ways a single letter may be used as a unit of thought, or as we usually call them, words. And we’re not just talking about the article 'a' or the pronoun 'I.' No no. We’re talking about how all the letters of the alphabet have been used as words throughout literature. ... A really fun way to look at the language in a fresh light, even for tired teachers like you and me."

January 4, 2015 (permalink)

From Lays of Modern Oxford by Anon., 1874.



December 31, 2014 (permalink)





"In an atmosphere of Borrioboola-gha."  From Bleak House by Charles Dickens.



December 29, 2014 (permalink)

Futility Closet reminds us that titivil is the name for "a devil said to collect fragments of words dropped, skipped, or mumbled in the recitation of divine service, and to carry them to hell, to be registered against the offender." [OED]

December 24, 2014 (permalink)




December 23, 2014 (permalink)

Our anagram recalls that episode of Seinfeld in which George tires of office Christmas parties and saves money by giving everyone a certificate that a donation has been made in their name to the (fictitious) Human Fund:




December 1, 2014 (permalink)

From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook.  For Jeff Hawkins.



November 12, 2014 (permalink)

What's in a name?  Here's Samuel Merry from History of Trumbull and Mahoning Co.'s, 1882.



November 11, 2014 (permalink)

Here's the Forgotten Alphabet, courtesy of Hilary and Jonathan Caws-Elwitt.






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